Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nasi Ketan Mangga "Istemewa"--Special Mango Sticky Rice

There are three stories about her visits to me in Indonesia my mother likes to recount.  Her favorite one is when I failed to meet her at the airport in Jakarta (I still insist she gave me the wrong date, telling me she would be arriving the next day) and she waited outside the terminal in Jakarta for several hours, the afternoon becoming night.  Another favorite is how my maid, when I returned home after teaching, would make sure that the standing fan in the living room was directed towards me, even if it meant turning it away from my mother.  The third story she likes to remind me of is about the breakfasts at the government mess where I lived in Cepu. 

The food at the mess was mediocre at best, but I said she and my father could get fried eggs for breakfast if they wanted.  I had to go to work before they had breakfast, so I left that as a suggestion.  Well, I forgot to mention that the eggs were fried early in the morning, when breakfast was generally served.  At 9:00 or so, maybe three hours after they had been cooked, the fried eggs were cold, rubbery, and probably coated with a film of congealed palm oil.  Not the breakfast my parents were hoping for.  Just as my mother can remember details from a lunch date in November, 1940, she cannot forget those eggs.  And she makes sure I will never forget them as well.

Nasi goreng istemewa (special fried rice) can be found throughout Indonesia.  While it may be eaten any time of the day, Indonesians prefer it for breakfast. There are countless variations of nasi goreng, but what makes it special is the sunny-side-up egg that is served atop the fried rice.  As my mother could tell you, an egg fried hours before it's served ain't all that special.  Unfortunately, it's not that unusual to get just such an egg on top of your fried rice in some places.

It was the idea of nasi goreng istemewa that inspired me to try this dish.  Sticky rice with sweetened coconut milk and mango is a popular dish in Thai restaurants.  It's similar to bubur ketan hitam, a popular breakfast dish in Bali, but has the added attraction of mango.  Breaking out my molecular gastronomy samples, I decided to top some sticky rice with a coconut and mango "egg".  The white of the egg was made from sweetened coconut milk and a pinch of agar agar.  The yolk was a sphere of mango puree made in the molecular gastronomy fashion from mango puree, sodium alginate, and sodium citrate that was set in a calcium chloride bath.

While I was pleased with how the "egg" looked, the yolk was not as intensely mango as I'd like.  In fact, it needed the fresh mango to rescue the dish.  If I try the dish again, I will try to make a more concentrated puree to intensify the mango flavor. 

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